How US torture left a legacy of damaged minds

How U.S. Torture Left a Legacy of Damaged Minds – The New York Times

When I first came across this article I thought it would be a great example of a living laboratory, but after reviewing the information that we had gone over in class (such as Medical Apartheid and Working Cures), I had difficulty in drawing comparisons that would equate our class’s understanding and the article’s view of Living Laboratories. What initially caught my eye about this article was its comment on the long term effects of torture and how tortured prisoners’ pasts have affected their present interactions and health. This reminded me of the rooted distrust that African-Americans had towards western doctors due to the scientific racism and non-consensual experiments African-Americans have been subjected to in the past. Where the difference appears to lie however is between the environments from which the two originate. While the African-American distrust of doctors stems from the non-consensual experiments their people have been subjected to by western medical professionals, the tortured prisoner’s psychological effects stem the non-consensual procedures that prisoners have been subjected to by American torturers.

Together as a class, we came up with lists of what an unsound living laboratory looks like compared to what a living laboratory should look like. I compared the list of values that we came up with to the values that were not involved within the US’s torture procedures. In doing so I found various similarities that convinced me that torture victims face a similar form of victimization that those subjected to unregulated livings laboratories do. At the same time, I still find myself plagued with various questions about said similarities that remain unanswered:

Firstly the idea of “non-consent”: Prisoners do not appear to have consent. The article articulates that consent from prisoners within the parameters of the subject’s torture is minuscule to almost nonexistent. The question that this concept begs is what rights are guaranteed to prisoners of war and how do these rights come into play when subjecting said prisoners to torture? Secondly, the idea of the “unequal power dynamic”: Being that prisoners are prisoners and that they have no power in the environments in which they are held, any experiments or procedures that they are subjected to are completely out of the realms of their control. This feeds into the idea of consent as well. With little to no power, prisoners would appear face the same unbalance of power as would victims of an unregulated living laboratory. And thirdly, the idea of having a “regulated/ controlled environment”: What does a regulated/ controlled environment look like when it comes to torture? Do regulations come into play when torturing a person? How are said regulations decided and executed? What guarantees are there to make sure that the torturer is meeting said regulations?

One thought on “How US torture left a legacy of damaged minds”

  1. This was an absolutely fascinating article. Not only in that these experiment were done on a captive audience, prisoners, but also in such places that it would be very hard for them to refuse participation. This, as you mentioned, calls into question how consent could ever accurately be gauged. I think this is an extremely horrible scenario that is being described, because of the torture that is going on. And in terms of regulations, I think it is hard to regulate because so much of it is classified and hidden from the public view. If the only people who are regulating it are within the system, it would be impossible to have an impartial judge. Because of this, regulations would be impossible to enforce or even document, leading to a cycle of abuse and torture that happens in these hidden prisons.

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